Netanyahu Says U.S. Must Show a Military Strike Against Iran Is Possible
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the U.S. and the international community need to convince Iran that a military strike is possible in order to prevent the Iranian government from developing nuclear weapons.
“The simple paradox is this,” Netanyahu said in a speech yesterday to Jewish activists in New Orleans. “If the international community, led by the U.S., wants to stop Iran without resorting to military action, it will have to convince Iran that it is prepared to take such action.”
Netanyahu’s comments came five days after Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said his country was ready to hold talks on its nuclear program with the five permanent United Nations Security Council members plus Germany. Iran denies claims by Israel, as well as by the U.S. and many of its allies, that the country’s nuclear program may be providing cover for the development of weapons.
“We have yet to see any signs that the tyrants of Tehran are stopping their pursuit of nuclear plans,” Netanyahu said.
The 61-year-old Israeli leader is on a five-day trip to the U.S. aimed at rallying support among American Jews and discussing with U.S. mediators ways to resume stalled peace talks with the Palestinian Authority. Netanyahu met with Vice President Joe Biden on Nov. 7 and will hold discussions with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before leaving Nov. 11 from New York.
‘Biting More Deeply’
Netanyahu’s comment to Biden that international pressure must be intensified to stop Iran’s nuclear program brought a response from U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates. While traveling in Melbourne, Australia, Gates said that sanctions against the Islamic Republic “are biting more deeply than they anticipated.”
Biden, speaking to a convention of Jewish groups in New Orleans on Nov. 7 after meeting with Netanyahu, said he told the Israeli leader that President Barack Obama won’t allow Iran to build a nuclear arsenal.
“We are absolutely committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons,” Biden said.
Iran is under a fourth round of UN sanctions because it refuses to curtail its nuclear program. Clinton, who was traveling in Asia, said she and her staff are working “non- stop” to keep the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks from collapsing. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says he won’t continue talks if Israel continues to build settlements in the West Bank.
Israel yesterday published construction plans for more than 1,000 new homes in east Jerusalem, which the Palestinians consider part of the West Bank and seek for the capital of their state.
The Israeli announcement may “derail the American and international efforts to resume a peace process,” said Ghassan Khatib, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority. “Israel is determined to demonstrate that settlement expansion is more of a priority to it than peace talks.”
Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev declined to comment on the plans. Members of the audience heckled Netanyahu several times during his New Orleans speech, shouting “Settlements delegitimize Israel” and “End the occupation.”
State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley called the plans “counterproductive” and said the U.S. was “deeply disappointed.”
The Arab League initially set a Nov. 9 deadline for the U.S. to come up with a solution. Abbas is now willing to give the U.S. an additional “two or three weeks” to save the peace talks, chief negotiator Saeb Erakat said after meeting Obama’s Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, in Washington on Nov. 4.
Netanyahu and Abbas, 75, had agreed to try to reach, within 12 months, a framework agreement that would cover issues at the core of the conflict, including the borders of a future Palestinian state, security arrangements for Israel and the right of Palestinian refugees to return.
Obama kicked the talks off with a White House ceremony Sept. 1, only to watch them stall when Israel’s 10-month partial freeze on new West Bank settlements expired Sept. 26.
About 500,000 Jews have moved to the West Bank and east Jerusalem since Israel captured the territories in the 1967 Middle East war. The UN says that settlements are illegal. Israel says the territory isn’t occupied because it wasn’t recognized as belonging to anyone before the 1967 war.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at email@example.com.